Coffins to Bear Logos of Baseball Teams
PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Many crazed baseball fans have said they would die for a championship. But are they willing to take that devotion to the grave? Major League Baseball and a company that makes funeral products will soon find out just how many fans want to be decked out for all eternity in tribute to their team.
Starting next season, fans of the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers will be able to have their ashes put in an urn or head six feet under in a casket emblazoned with their team colors and insignia.
MLB has entered a licensing agreement with Eternal Image, which hopes to eventually make urns and caskets for all 30 teams. The company also hopes to have similar agreements with NASCAR, the NHL and the NFL, but baseball was the first to sign on.
The $11 billion-a-year funeral industry is adding more personal touches, from Harley Davidson-themed caskets to ones featuring the cartoon character Betty Boop.
Kurt Soffe, a spokesman for the National Funeral Directors Association, said the baseball products are part of a trend of trying to capture ``the life and the passions of the person that has passed away.″
``More and more families are wanting to have something that respects the personalities,″ Soffe said.
Eternal Image, based in Farmington Hills, Mich., also makes a line of Vatican-themed products. Chief executive Clint Mytych said the company ``wanted to break into a sports venue of some kind,″ and baseball is ``the all-American sport.″
He said he has received at least 1,000 inquiries since June.
Susan Goodenow, an MLB spokeswoman, said the league and clubs have received requests for several years for urns and caskets with team logos.
``Passionate fans express their love of their team in a number of different ways,″ Goodenow said.
The National Funeral Directors Association is meeting in Philadelphia this week and giving its members a sneak peak of what the baseball urns will look like. Eternal Image says urns for the six teams should be available by opening day 2007, and caskets for those teams should be ready later in the year.
The products have not been made yet and the exact cost has not been set.
The Phillies urn was the first to be designed. Each urn will feature recognition of the deceased’s passionate support, stamped with a message that says ``Major League Baseball officially recognizes (person’s name) as a lifelong fan of (team).″
David Griffin, funeral director at L.J. Griffin Funeral Home in suburban Detroit, said the caskets and urns could be a hot commodity.
``Looking at it as a consumer, I was thinking this is some pretty interesting, unique stuff,″ Griffin said.
Nevertheless, funeral homes will have to be careful to not offend clients.
``They are a little bit hesitant because of what others might think,″ Soffe said.
The manufacturer also will have to make sure the products aren’t too expensive. People who choose cremation, for example, often do so partly because it is cheaper.
``I guess it’s going to be interesting to see how it’s accepted,″ Griffin said.
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